By Martin J. Greenberg
The opening of Fiserv Forum on August 26, 2018 has led to a buzz around the City of Milwaukee. This new arena in the middle of downtown Milwaukee is the center of a $500 million-dollar plus real estate development project. This article will analyze the surrounding development district which is currently being developed by a private arm of the Milwaukee Bucks (“Bucks”). While the arena was needed to keep the franchise in Milwaukee, the future viability and growth of the surrounding area will rest on the success of this entertainment district as a whole.
The area and surrounding development is known as the “Deer District.” “In addition to Fiserv Forum, the Deer District encompasses the Plaza, the Entertainment Block, and the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center,” along with a parking structure. This entire development is thirty acres of real estate space in total, and has been referred to as “Milwaukee’s Gathering Place.”
The Entertainment Block, also known as “Block 4,” is a 104,000 square foot entertainment center that now features a Plaza, three buildings (The MECCA Sports Bar and Grill, Punch Bowl Social, and Good City Brewing), and is separated by two public walkways. The development is now located east of N. 4th Street between W. Highland and W. Juneau Avenues and replaced a former city-owned parking structure. “A walkway cuts through the two largest buildings in the complex leading to the outdoor plaza west of the entertainment center by way of N. Old World Third St. “A shorter walkway connects pedestrians from N. 4th St. and W. Highland Ave., by cutting through two smaller buildings along the site’s southern portion.” The Deer District also includes residential apartment living known as Five-Fifty Ultra Lofts which is located on North 6th Street and built into the Fiserv Forum parking structure.
Peter Feigin became the President of the Bucks in October of 2014. Before taking his position with the team, he served as the chief marketing and revenue officer of Deluxe Entertainment Services Group (“Deluxe”). For Deluxe he managed global business units and handled branding for an international entertainment company. Prior to working at Deluxe, Feigin was president and COO of Marquis Jet Partners and helped lead its acquisition by NetJets, the world’s largest private jet company. “From 1998 to 2004, he worked for the New York Knicks and rose to become vice president of marketing – increasing profits, season subscriptions and suite revenue during his tenure.” “Additionally, Feigin has served as a senior advisor to the Milwaukee Bucks since the ownership change, helping reorganize and refocus its business operations.”
As he took on his role as President, he has been actively changing the trajectory of the franchise. “Peter has [sic] been instrumental in driving the vision, financing, planning, design and construction of a new multi-purpose arena for the [S]tate of Wisconsin, a new state-of-the-art training center for the Bucks, and 30 acres of mixed-use development surrounding the project that will seamlessly link with existing developments on all sides to create a vibrant, urban community in the heart of Milwaukee.” “He has worked tirelessly to ensure that this historic project will be catalytic to the economic development of both the [C]ity of Milwaukee and the [S]tate of Wisconsin.”
Feigin stated that the goal of the Entertainment Block 4 is to create “true neighborhood amenities including destination retail and services in a pedestrian-friendly environment.” “The entertainment center’s public space, combined with the new restaurants and taverns, would play a key role in drawing more people to downtown, Feigin said.” “The public space could host concerts, viewing parties for televised sports and other events.” “There isn’t a similar venue near the Bradley Center, he said.” “That would help make the area around the new arena a place that draws people throughout the year,” Feigin said, “not just on game days for the Bucks and Marquette University Golden Eagles.” The Entertainment Block would also entice people to spend more time in downtown Milwaukee when they come for games and other events, he said. “‘This is all about drawing more people and extending their stays,’ Feigin said.”
“‘Clearly we are going to have to do what’s right for Milwaukee,’ Feigin said. ‘This is a [C]ity that is almost maniacal about authenticity. It’s a Midwestern thing but it’s especially true here. Milwaukee is a city that demands value, and that sensibility is the kind of thing that guides all our decisions.’”
II. Statutory Creation of the Arena Project
In order to create a Deer District, a sports.comm, the creation of an arena project as a centerpiece and destination was a necessity. For the Deer District to come to fruition, the City, County, State, Wisconsin Center District, and the Bucks had to create a public/private partnership to build a new arena. Essentially the Fiserv Forum started with internal discussions within the Wisconsin State Legislature.
Those discussions culminated with the Wisconsin Legislature enacting 2015 Wisconsin Act 60 (Act). The Act states, “[t]he Act authorizes the Wisconsin Center District, an existing special purpose district, to acquire, construct, and equip arena facilities or engage other persons to do so. The Act authorizes the Wisconsin Center District to “maintain, improve, operate, and manage the arena facilities only with funds received from a professional basketball team [. . .].”
The public funding for the Fiserv Forum is divided between the State of Wisconsin, the County of Milwaukee, the City of Milwaukee, and the Wisconsin Center District.
1) Overview of Public Funding:
a) $250 Million in public funds are set to be contributed to the development and construction of the new Bucks arena. The $250 Million contribution approximates $400 Million with interest over 20 years. 
i) The City of Milwaukee: $47 Million;
ii) State of Wisconsin: $55 Million or $4 Million/year;
iii) Milwaukee County: $55 Million or $4 Million/year; and
iv) Wisconsin Center District: $93 Million.
2) City of Milwaukee
a) The Milwaukee Common Council approved the City’s contribution of $47 Million to the new Bucks arena in a 12-3 vote on September 22, 2015.
b) The City of Milwaukee’s $47 Million contribution to the arena project is as follows:
i) $12 Million will be used to build a 130,000 square foot public plaza that will be located between the new arena and the entertainment district;
(1) The public plaza will be located between the new arena and the entertainment district on 4th Street between Juneau and Highland at the site of the existing parking structure that will be demolished.
ii) $35 Million will be used for a 1,243-space parking garage pursuant to Act 60, section 229.461(3)(d).
(1) The parking structure will be located on the Park East land, east of N. 6th Street and north of W. Juneau Ave.
3) State of Wisconsin
a) The State will contribute $4 Million per year. Pursuant to Act 60, section 229.48(1), the Wisconsin Center District will “issue bonds for costs and purposes that are related to . . . [a] sports and entertainment arena or sports and entertainment arena facilities.” Under the legislation, costs and purposes include the construction of a new arena. The bonds issued to the State of Wisconsin will be paid by state taxpayers in order to finance their portion of the funding.
b) According to Act 60, 25% of the $2 surcharge will go to the state through “the Department of Administration for deposit into the general fund.”
i) The 25% ticket surcharge going to the State is projected to generate $500,000 per year, which will go towards the State’s portion of the arena funding and reduce the State’s contribution to approximately $3.5 million per year.
4) Milwaukee County
b) According to Section 79.035(6) of Act 60, “beginning with the distributions in 2016 and ending with the distributions in 2035, the annual payment under this section to a county in which a sports and entertainment arena . . . is located shall be the amount otherwise determined for the county under this section, minus $4,000,000.” Thus, Milwaukee County’s state aid payments will be reduced by $4 million dollars until their portion of the arena contribution has been satisfied.
i) The uncollected debt provision, which was removed from the original Senate bill and replaced by the $2 ticket surcharge, may be implemented by the County if approval is received from County treasurer and clerk of circuit courts. This plan would transfer from the County to the State the ability to collect unpaid debts and taxes owed to the County to be used for the County’s portion of the funding.
5) Wisconsin Center District
a) Under Act 60, a $2 surcharge on all tickets sold at the new arena will be divided between the State and the Wisconsin Center District. “[Twenty-five] percent of the amount received under this section [shall be distributed] to the Department of Administration for deposit into the general fund and [the board of directors] shall retain the remainder for the District.” The proceeds from the $2 surcharge on all tickets sales at the new arena will be used to help the Wisconsin Center District fund their $93 Million contribution.
b) The Wisconsin Center District will collect local taxes from “hotel rooms, rental cars, food and beverage” taxes under Act 60 section 70.11(37).
6) Overview of Private Funding
a) On the private side, the Bucks and Senator Herb Kohl (“Kohl”) agreed to contribute $250 Million towards the creation of the arena project as follows:
i) $100 Million was a gift from Kohl.
ii) $150 Million through the Bucks organization or related entities. It was announced that the Milwaukee Bucks owners had borrowed $174 Million to finance their share of the arena costs.
With the $500 million plus accounted for, what follows is a comparison of what we had in the form of the BMO Harris Bradley Center versus what was created through the public/private partnership in the form of the Fiserv Forum:
|BMO Harris Bradley Center||vs. Fiserv Forum|
|Total Square Footage|
|18,500||17,500 for basketball, 18,000 for concerts|
|68 originally, 43 in 2018||34|
|About 450||About 1,400|
III. Project Description as Submitted to the City of Milwaukee
A development plan for the Deer District was presented to the City of Milwaukee in a document entitled “Milwaukee Bucks Arena Development” dated October 26, 2015, File No. 150724. This Plan had to be approved by the City. While some alterations have taken place over the course of the development to date, the basic concepts remain. What follows is the narrative and initial vision presented and validated by the City of Milwaukee highlighting the boundaries, focus, plans, and adaptability of the project.
The development outlined in this plan is based on the vision of the ownership of the Milwaukee Bucks to provide an economic catalyst for growth and revitalization in downtown Milwaukee surrounding a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks. The plan is a result of an unprecedented partnership between the Milwaukee Bucks, the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County and the State of Wisconsin. There is a central focus by all the partners to see the project attract a vibrant community to live, work and play in the area, attract significant tourism to the region and spur future development in every direction.
As the project is built, the developers are committed to having a meaningful impact on the Milwaukee community. Opportunities for training and employment will engage many residents during the construction process. It is also a priority to ensure the construction process is done in an environmentally responsible way.
The developers also hope to attract additional local and national investors and developers to the project. The master plan of the development was created in a way that allows many of the structures to be built for a variety of uses and to maximize flexibility to meet future demand, while maintaining the cohesive design vision and sense of community.
A partial list of uses that are envisioned for the development include: a sports arena, offices, live-work residential, entertainment retail including sit down and carry out restaurants, a seasonal market, parking decks, and a hotel. A list of potential uses specific to each block will be given in the Proposed GPD Design Standards and Site Statistics that are provided for each block.
The development will be located in an area known as the McKinley Avenue District in the Park East Redevelopment Plan. The McKinley Avenue District is located on the west side of the Milwaukee River and includes the section of the Park East Freeway corridor between McKinley Avenue to the north, Juneau Avenue to the south, the Milwaukee River to the east and Sixth Street to the west. Much of the land in this district is currently either vacant or used for surface parking. Through the planned redevelopment, McKinley Avenue will become a new gateway to downtown, providing access for both regional and local traffic. Although McKinley Avenue will become the largest east west thoroughfare, Juneau Avenue will continue to be a major arterial street because of its continuity to the lakefront. Sixth Street will also provide an important north to south link from Bronzeville through to the Menomonee River Valley.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION OF PROPERTY
This General Planned Development encompasses 8 Blocks with the following addresses and owners:
- 1133 N 5th St (Bradley Center Sports & Entertainment)
- 505 W Juneau Av (Deer District LLC)
- 429 W Juneau Av (Bradley Center Sports & Entertainment)
- 1137 N 4th St (Bradley Center Sports & Entertainment)
- 1111 N 4th St (Bradley Center Corp.)
- 1030 N 6th St (Bradley Center Corp.)
- 1010 N 6th St (Bradley Center Corp.)
- 1001 N 4th St (Bradley Center Sports & Entertainment)
- 324 W Highland Av (City of Milwaukee)
- 1129 N Old World St (Deer District LLC)
- 1121 N Old World St (Deer District LLC)
- 1117 N Old World St (Deer District LLC)
- 300 W Juneau Av (Redevelopment Authority of Milwaukee)
- 1225 N Old World Third St (Milwaukee County)
- 1245 N Old World Third St (Milwaukee County)
- 1244 N 4th St (Milwaukee County)
- 1224 N 4th St (Milwaukee County)
- 420 W Juneau Ave (Milwaukee County)
- 423 W McKinley Ave (Milwaukee County)
- 516 W Juneau Ave (Milwaukee County)
- 519 W McKinley Ave (Milwaukee County)
- 1227 N 6th St (Milwaukee County)
- 740 W Winnebago St (Milwaukee County)
- 1247 N 6th St (Milwaukee County)
A term sheet by and between the Milwaukee Bucks, LLC, Head of the Herd, LLC, including their affiliates, Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee, and the City of Milwaukee was entered into that is descriptive of the obligations with respect to the development of the area known as the Deer District. What follows are some of those terms:
City agrees to contribute cash, infrastructure and land to the Greater Arena Project and related properties as follows:
A. $35 million cash towards the construction of the Parking Structure in accordance with statutory requirements.
B. $12 million in cash towards the construction of the Plaza and other components of the Greater Arena Project which can be funded with tax-exempt bond proceeds in accordance with statutory requirements.
C. If the actual costs for construction of the Bucks Arena, the Plaza and the Parking Structure are under $500 million, it is understood that City will be reimbursed for its proportionate share based on and controlled by legislation passed by the State of Wisconsin.
D. Conveyance of the 4th & Highland Parcel and City’s Park East Parcel to Bucks.
E. Public infrastructure improvements as follows (with all deadlines subject to revision based upon the outcome of a coordinated meeting between City, Bucks and Bucks’ contractor about the scheduling of the construction of the Greater Arena Project and the Training Facility):
1. Initiate and consider an application to vacate N. 4th Street between W. Juneau Avenue and W. Highland Avenue and N. 5th St. and the public alleys in Block 1 and complete any utility work (water/sewer/comm) related to those vacations by the end of 2015. Such vacations will proceed through the City’s standard process for street vacations..
2. Rehab of sewer in Highland Avenue by the end of 2016 if deemed necessary by City’s Dept. of Public Works.
3. Resurface Juneau Avenue between 3rd and 6th Streets by the end of 2017.
4. Resurface Highland Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets and between 5th and 6th Streets by the end of 2017.
5. Complete streetscaping on Juneau/Highland by the end of 2017.
6. Rebuild 5th Street from Juneau to McKinley in coordination with the construction of the Parking Structure and from State to Highland if needed in coordination with the development of Blocks 2 and 3.
F. Facilitate coordination between Bucks, Milwaukee County, the State of Wisconsin and MMSD to remove footings in the Park East Land and to relocate a sewer in the Park East Land to Juneau Avenue. The parties understand that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will relocate the sewer located in the Park East Land. City will fully cooperate and coordinate with the State of Wisconsin and Milwaukee County to relocate the sewer and will pay for any city-related incremental costs arising from the upsizing of the state-owned sewer that is located on the Park East Land.
Bucks agree to do all of the following:
A. Enter into PILOT agreements with City to be recorded on title of all parcels owned by Bucks within the TID boundary, except Block 1, the Live Block Plaza and vacated 4th Street.
B. Accommodate and agree to a transportation, utility and public access easement for the benefit of the City in vacated 4th Street. Such easement shall be executed by the City, the Wisconsin Center District and the Bucks prior to recording the resolution vacating 4th Street and shall include a reversionary clause that requires the re-designation of 4th Street as right-of-way at no cost to the City if the Bucks no longer use the Plaza or Bucks Arena and the City requests such re-dedication. City agrees to coordinate with Bucks on design and construction of any facilities placed within the easement area in order to accommodate any safety and operational concerns of the Bucks.
C. Dedicate public right of way for N. 5th Street between Highland Avenue and State Street and from Juneau Avenue to McKinley Avenue.
D. Complete construction of the Bucks Arena, the Plaza, the Live Block Plaza, the Parking Structure and the Live Block not later than 60 months following commencement of construction, subject to force majeure.
E. Demolish the existing Bradley Center, at no cost to City, within 12 months following completion of construction of the Bucks Arena, subject to force majeure.
F. Enter into a development agreement with City and RACM.
G. Enter into a human resources agreement (“HRA”) with City consistent with this Term Sheet.
BUCKS’ COMMITMENT TO CITY PREREQUISITES:
Human Resources Requirements:
Bucks will take steps necessary to meet the following goals:
A. On construction of the Bucks Arena, Plaza and Parking Structure:
1. 25% of construction (labor and supplies) completed by Small Business Enterprises (“SBE”), as defined in Sec. 370-1-17 of the Milwaukee Code of Ordinances (subject to standard exclusions available under City’s SBE program).
2. 18% of Architectural/Engineering professional services completed by SBE (subject to standard exclusions available under City’s SBE program).
B. On the construction of the Bucks Arena, Plaza and Parking Structure:
1. 40% of workers shall qualify under the City’s Residential Preference Program (“RPP”) as follows:
a. RPP-qualified workers shall be City residents that are unemployed or underemployed as defined in sec. 309-41-1-f of the Milwaukee Code of Ordinances or grandfathered unemployed or underemployed City residents who no longer meet the time requirements in sec. 309-41-1-f because of their work on other recent development projects in the City of Milwaukee.
b. In the event that the Bucks exhaust all eligible workers who meet the City’s RPP ordinance as described in B.1.(a), as determined by the City’s Office of Small Business Development in cooperation with the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board, and have not met the 40% requirement, the Bucks may hire any City resident to fill that gap and reach the 40% requirement.
2. For purposes of maximizing employment opportunities, targeting training programs and assessing compliance feasibility within specific components of the project subject to RPP, the HRA shall provide that City (through City’s Department of City Development and Office of Small Business Development), Bucks and Bucks’ project manager, in conjunction with the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board in collaboration with the Milwaukee Building Trades and WRTP Big Step, shall develop a gap analysis of work force capabilities and capacities on a trade by trade basis. This analysis shall be performed both prior to commencement of construction and again following construction bidding.
3. In an effort to increase workforce capacity in the City of Milwaukee, the Bucks and City agree to contribute a minimum of $375,000 each during the next 4 years towards capacity building programs to be conducted in cooperation with MAWIB for the Greater Arena Project. The Bucks’ portion may be paid directly by the Bucks, through an Affiliate or through the Bucks’ foundation. The funding of the City portion is yet to be determined. The capacity building funds may be utilized to pay for the following:
a. Completing the gap analysis as described in B.2.
b. A youth recruitment program.
c. Worker recruitment events.
d. Development of an end user worker recruitment project.
e. Business development program in the architectural and other professional fields.
f. Any other program that the City and Bucks mutually agree upon.
With regard to the Parking Structure, the following terms are agreed to by the Parties:
A. Bucks shall obtain title to Block 7 from Milwaukee County and cause the Parking Structure, not including any of the ancillary development attached to the Parking Structure, to be conveyed as a separate tax key parcel to City (free of all financial encumbrances). Ancillary development attached to the Parking Structure includes development abutting the sides of the Parking Structure and/or on the roof. Any development on the roof will be coordinated and subject to discussions with City in relation to City’s rights under paragraph F, below.
B. City shall pay $35 million for construction of a minimum of 1243 parking spaces.
C. City has approval rights over the architect and design selected for the Parking Structure, which approval cannot be unreasonably withheld. The Parking Structure may be developed on a design/build basis.
D. Bucks shall be guaranteed use of 1,243 parking spaces for events at the Bucks Arena (843 in the Parking Structure with City’s option to provide up to 400 at another, mutually agreeable location within a mutually agreeable distance from the New Arena Parcel). The offsite revenues from such relocated spaces shall be included as revenue from the Parking Structure.
E. Bucks shall construct the Parking Structure subject to City’s standard public works requirements as required by law.
F. City has the option, at its expense, to increase the number of spaces above 1,243 at the time of construction or at anytime in the future.
G. City’s $35 million shall not cover costs related to construction of any skywalk, but City agrees to allow a skywalk to be connected to the Parking Structure if Bucks can obtain necessary approvals for the skywalk.
H. City and Bucks shall enter into a master lease that leases the Parking Structure to Bucks and obligates Bucks to be responsible for operation and maintenance of the Parking Structure. It is understood that a third party professional parking operator will likely be engaged to manage day to day operations of the Parking Structure. City and Bucks shall work together to establish rates at the Parking Structure for monthly/daily parking and parking during events at the Bucks Arena. Under the lease, City shall retain sole rights to arrange for leases, at market rates determined in accordance with the preceding sentence, for any parking spaces above the 1,243 (or 843) spaces reserved for events at the Bucks Arena. The location of such leased spaces shall be subject to Bucks’ approval.
I. When not being used for events at the Bucks Arena, the 1,243 parking spaces in the Parking Structure shall be made available for daily/monthly public parking.
J. Bucks and City shall split all parking revenues from the Parking Structure on a 50/50 basis after costs of operation and maintenance, including capital repairs, of the Parking Structure are deducted.
K. City may sell, and Bucks shall market, naming rights or corporate sponsorship signage for the Parking Structure. City and Bucks shall each receive 50 percent of any revenue associated with such naming or sponsorship. City anticipates that its share of such revenue will be dedicated to the MKE Plays initiative. Any associated signage for the naming rights or sponsorship is subject to City’s standard approval requirements, which shall not be unreasonably withheld.
L. The Parking Structure needs to accommodate the Journal-Sentinel parking lease from 4th & Highland Parcel at market rates.
City will create a $20 million tax increment district (“TID”) with a boundary as shown on Exhibit 2.
A. City will finance its $12 million contribution to the Plaza through the TID.
B. Bucks will finance $8 million towards the TID by purchasing tax-exempt revenue bonds from RACM that represent Bucks’ $8 million developer contribution to the TID.
C. Tax increments actually received by City through the TID shall be used to first repay City for its $12 million contribution plus cost of borrowing.
D. Upon City being fully repaid for its $12 million contribution and borrowing costs, Bucks will be repaid its $8 million contribution plus 4.5% compounded interest through tax increments actually received by City through the TID.
E. City shall not enter into any other development agreements in the TID that make another developer superior to Bucks’ repayment rights or extend the length of time of Bucks’ repayment.
F. The TID shall last no more than 25 years from its effective date.
Local Retailer Participation – Live Block
A. Bucks intends to develop retail and entertainment on the Live Block.
B. Bucks will include 25% of Milwaukee-based retailers as tenants in the Live Block, subject to the tenant availability and ability to pay prevailing market rent rates. Local providers may include Bucks, but portions of the Live Block where Bucks sublease to non-local franchises shall not be counted towards the 25%.
A. It is contemplated that Blocks 5 and 6 will be used for temporary surface parking while the Bucks Arena is being constructed as replacement for the current surface parking located on the western half of Block 1 for up to 24 months following completion of the construction staging for the Greater Arena Project and ancillary development on the Park East Land.
B. City’s and Bucks’ interests are aligned in developing the Park East Land in an expedient and thoughtful manner.
PERMITTING & ZONING:
A. City agrees to provide designated contact persons to handle permitting and zoning issues related to the construction of the Bucks Arena, Plaza, Parking Structure and Training Facility.
B. Detailed Plan Development zoning shall be used for all development within the TID.
C. Bucks shall be responsible for paying a maximum of $1 million in costs for permit fees and on-site expedited applications, reviews, inspections and approvals for the Bucks Arena, Plaza, Parking Structure and the Training Facility.
CITY LAND CONTRIBUTIONS:
A. City shall convey City’s Park East Parcel to Bucks by quit claim deed within 30 days after Milwaukee County conveys the Park East Land to Head of the Herd, LLC.
B. City shall convey the 4th & Highland Parcel to Bucks by quit claim deed.
C. Both parcels shall be subject to a deed restriction that requires them to be subject to a PILOT agreement.
D. Bucks shall demolish the parking structure at the 4th & Highland Parcel in accordance with the timeframe established in the construction contract for the Bucks Arena.
E. Bucks shall exercise good faith efforts to complete construction of the Live Block by the time the Bucks Arena opens.
F. The timing of paragraphs B, D and E shall be subject to revision based upon coordinated efforts between Bucks and City’s Dept. of Public Works as the Greater Arena Project progresses. In addition, City will cooperate with Bucks in land conveyances to minimize income tax and transfer tax consequences.
This Term Sheet does not constitute a binding agreement. The terms set forth herein and other provisions customary for a transaction of this sort shall be incorporated in one or more agreements among City, RACM and Bucks. Resolutions approving this Term Sheet shall provide for the execution of all additional project documents and instruments necessary to implement the Project.
On January 19, 2016, a General Planned Development (GPD; File No. 150724) was approved for the 8-block arena master plan. Subsequently, a Detailed Planned Development (DPD) known as Block 1 – Arena Master Plan was approved on May 24, 2016 as File No. 151653. A Minor Modification to the DPD zoning was approved on March 1, 2017 as File No. 161321 and updated the plaza design on the east side of the arena to match the plans for the pedestrian plaza, as well as allowed additional signage on the site. The subject Minor Modification will permit one additional illuminated freestanding sign at the corner of Juneau and Vel R. Phillips Ave. (4th Street).
The “Milwaukee Bucks Arena Development Plan received all kinds of accolades from City of Milwaukee officials. “’The architecture is beautiful,’ said [City Plan] Commission member Whitney Gould, who praised the design as transparent, gritty and paying homage to the city’s industrial heritage.” “Said [C]ommission member Stephanie Bloomingdale, ‘I’m very, very impressed with the design. I’m excited to see how this is a place where Milwaukee comes together.’”
The design seeks to create an active area, both inside the entertainment center and outside on the plaza, throughout the year, said Matt Rinka, of Rinka Chung Architecture. The firm worked on the design with two other firms: Gensler and Office of James Burnett.
“Rinka told [City Plan] Commission members that the outdoor plaza is designed to be less of a grand statement and more like a place where people feel comfortable.” “’This is a space for everybody,’ Rinka said.”
A final master plan for the Park East Corridor was filed with the City through the Bucks’ team affiliate, Head of the Herd Real Estate Development, in partnership with Eppstein Uhen Architects. The Master Plan is for the site of the Bradley Center and the two remaining Park East blocks. While it is not expected that everything shown on the Master Plan will be built exactly as they are in the renderings, Bucks’ President Peter Feigin stated the idea is to show possibilities.
IV. The Real Estate Team
A stand-alone arena was never the contemplated result of the development of the Arena Project. While the new arena may be the centerpiece of the Deer District, the communal development makes the Deer District a very special place to create a sports community (sports.comm), and takes a very special level of real estate expertise. While not inclusive, let me mention some of the assets the Bucks organization had and have acquired in order to make the Deer District development and its team a powerful and directed one.
Fortunately the Bucks have as one of its primary owners, Michael D. Fascitelli, who has a long history in the finance and real estate businesses. A former Goldman Sachs partner in real estate investment banking, Fascitelli went on to become President and CEO of Vornado Realty Trust. During his tenure with Vornado, the company acquired the Merchandise Mart building in Chicago and numerous office buildings surrounding Madison Square Garden. In 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo nominated Fascitelli as a Commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Fascitelli has been a trustee and governor of the Urban Land Institute.
Every development needs a seasoned attorney with years of experience and a vision, and that is exactly what the Bucks retained when they hired Bruce T. Block (“Block”) of the law firm of Reinhart, Boerner Van Deuren, S.C. Block has had a storied forty year career in Milwaukee since graduating from the Boston University School of Law, magna cum laude. “He has [had] significant experience in a broad range of real estate matters including land use planning, zoning, eminent domain, historic tax credits, multiple and mixed use ownership structures, tax incremental financing and leasing, construction and design contracts.” In addition to working to secure the public/private partnership for the Fiserv Forum development, Block has worked on the development of the downtown Riverwalk, Northwestern Mutual Campus expansion, Manpower Inc. headquarters complex, Redevelopment of the Schlitz Brewery, UW-Milwaukee Innovation Campus and UW-Milwaukee Real Estate Foundation, Riverview and Cambridge Commons residential facilities in Milwaukee County.
The Bucks also hired outside of their organization to bring a Milwaukee flair and understanding of the marketplace. Blair Williams of WiRED Properties was retained by the Milwaukee Bucks to act as Managing Director of Real Estate for all the land surrounding the new Milwaukee Bucks Arena in downtown Milwaukee. WiRED as a company prides themselves on working and getting millennial engagement in wide scale projects such as the new Buck development. They pride themselves on engaging in “Urban Weaving” to increase and enhance community involvement. “The scope of work includes master planning and development of up to four city blocks in the Park East corridor….” “Blair reports directly to Peter Feigin, President of the Bucks.”
The final hire was Michael Belot (“Belot”) who was brought into the organization as Senior Vice President of Bucks Ventures and Development. Belot “will develop and implement the strategic real estate and business growth objectives for the overall organization, including the 30acre entertainment district.” A graduate of Kohler High School, Belot attended the University of Minnesota for undergraduate studies and then obtained his MBA from the University of Saint Thomas-Opus College of Business. He was previously involved in the development of Lodge Kohler at Titletown in Green Bay, and also served as Vice Chairman for the 2015 PGC Championship and the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.
Michael is a seasoned business executive in Wisconsin who will develop and execute unique real estate and business growth strategies for the Bucks organization, said Bucks President Peter Feigin. As our sports and entertainment company continues to grow, Michael’s extensive experience in managing major hospitality destinations and events will be instrumental in delivering an innovative approach and enhancing the customer experience.
These professionals round out the already impressive ownership team of Wes Edens (“Edens”) and Marc Lasry (“Lasry”). Edens was a co-founder of Fortress Investment Group which managed private equity, hedge funds, and real estate vehicles. Fortress Investment Group also launched an eSports franchise called FlyQuest. In 2018, Edens also became a majority shareholder in the Premier League club Aston Villa. Lasry got his start as a bankruptcy attorney and eventually co-founded Avenue Capital Management which “manages about $10 billion in assets and focuses on distressed and undervalued securities.” In addition to being an owner of the Bucks, Lasry focuses on philanthropy, including works with universities and hospitals.
A local Milwaukee architectural firm, Eppstein Uhen Architects, has played a pivotal role in the master planning and vision for the real estate known as the Deer District.
V. Land Assemblage
The Arena Project and Deer District encompasses approximately thirty acres. The Bucks organization has acquired four significant parcels of real estate that will help to make the Deer District the vision as was originally intended in the development proposal to the City of Milwaukee.
The first piece of land acquired was that land at approximately the corner of North 6th Street and Juneau Avenue, a block from the Bucks’ current arena, the Fiserv Forum. The intended usage of the land, to be later discussed, was to create the Foederdt and the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Sports Science Center as well as the McKinnley Health Center. The buildings are open and operative. The Sports Science Center and Health Care Resource fit into the Bucks’ concept of improving facilities for players and staff, as well as having a medical alternative for neighborhood residents.
The next acquisition involved Block 4, or better known as the Live Block or Entertainment Block. It was reported that the Bucks organization paid approximately $2.3 Million for the land that is directly adjacent to the Fiserv Forum. “The seller of the property was the Wisconsin Center District, who is the landlord for the new arena and acquired the Live Block from the City of Milwaukee.” The site formerly housed a city owned parking structure along North 4th Street between West Highland and West Juneau Avenues.
A related Bucks enterprise, Head of the Herd, LLC, bought three lots on the Live Block. Head of the Herd is directly connected to the Deer District, LLC. Deer District, LLC is a private development arm of the Milwaukee Bucks. The Live Block or Entertainment Block currently houses Good City Brewing, Punch Bowl Social, MECCA Sports Bar and Grill, and Drink Wisconsinbly Pub.
The next significant acquisition involved a sale from Milwaukee County involving land in the Park East Corridor bordered by McKinley Avenue on the North, Old World Third Street on the East, Juneau Avenue on the South, and Winnebago Street on the West. The land was sold to Head of the Herd, LLC for $1.00. The land comprises almost ten acres in the Park East Corridor. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele (Abele) said about the deal being signed, “we have never had a win like this ever. We’re here because we’re creating thousands of jobs. This is about Milwaukee and this is about economic development.” Peter Feigin said “[t]his is not the arena. This land is ancillary development – where people will work, and people will live, and people will play – adjacent to the arena.”
A portion of the land located in Park East currently sits empty and has been empty since the removal of the Park East freeway which was completed in 2002 and encompasses almost ten acres. The price of the land, i.e. – $1.00, was attributed to the high cost of preparing the land for future development which includes but is not limited to dealing with underground sewers and piers from the now demolished Park East freeway spur.
The Bucks envision 1.5 million square feet of residential office, parking and retail and other new developments on the four city blocks. Milwaukee County Super John Weishan (Weishan) said “[t]his is a huge giveaway to some extremely wealthy people, ultimately at the taxpayers’ expense. Weishan said the land is valued at $8.9 Million.” Weishan maintains that even with the county officials estimating that several million will be needed to prepare the land for use, Weishan believed that Milwaukee County could do better.
Milwaukee County Supervisor Steve Taylor “said that the process for selling the Park East land to the Milwaukee Bucks for $1.00 lacked transparency.” He further indicated that this was not about Milwaukee County selling the Park East property for $1.00, this is about Abele selling the Park East for $1.00. The County Executive and his administration managed to freeze the County Board out of the vote on this proposal which means a thorough public discussion did not take place except through a public hearing held by the Board.
Milwaukee County Supervisor Michael Mayo, Sr. said the sale was “not a good deal given the needs the County has in paying off its debts:” He continued to state that:
The deal is done, but the point is not moot. We still have $3.5 million in debt service for bonding for the annex parking lot. We still have a lot of infrastructure that needs repair, especially in our parks. Is this really the best deal the County Executive could have negotiated? Where did he get his negotiating skills? He should have been thinking about the County’s needs, not the Bucks’ needs.
There have been a lot of promises made with regards to what this land sale will mean for downtown Milwaukee and the residents of Milwaukee County. I hope those promises come to fruition, but I am a bit skeptical.
I’m looking for the best deal for taxpayers, and I’m not sure selling this valuable piece of land for $1 is in their best interests.
In a press release, the Bucks’ President Peter Feigin stated that:
The Park East land is a vital piece to our owners’ vision that goes beyond a new arena by attracting hundreds of millions more in private investment to our community. This sale represents the next step in a major economic development that will change the landscape of Milwaukee County. On this ground, we envision a vibrant community space featuring housing, office, commercial and retail opportunities, that will link the neighboring communities together with a world-class sports and entertainment destination.
At a 2015 Real Estate CEO Roundtable, panelists representing Milwaukee developers were generally supportive of the County’s $1 sale.
Others said the price is right if it means finally bringing activity to blocks that sat undeveloped for 15 years. Land is only worth what people are willing to pay for it, said Tony DeRosa, executive vice president of Brookfield-based HSI Properties LLC.
‘This land has sat idle for years and years and years, and I think it is more about the right group with the right vision versus what is the highest price, the maximizing price,’ he said. ‘If we look at 10, 15, 20 years from now, if it is developed, built out well for the vision we’ve seen today, we’re not going to worry about what the price of land was.’
The county appraised the Park East land at $8.8 million. That price does not consider the estimated $6 million cost of moving an underground sewer, and an estimated $3.1 million to remove up to 153 underground footings from the former Park East freeway spur’s support columns. Under the $1 land deal, the Bucks owners would pay those costs.
After the demolition of the Barley Center, crews worked to ready the site for redevelopment. Hunzinger Construction Co. of Brookfield, Wisconsin oversaw the demolition of the Bradley Center. An affiliate of the Bucks maintains control and the ownership of the subject land. The land will be utilized for the DNC Convention in Milwaukee in July of 2020. The Bucks have sought requests for proposals and it is reported that they have received fourteen proposals “from developers across the country for two hotel projects on sites near Fiserv Forum – a site on Juneau Avenue between Vel R. Phillips and Fifth Street and the former BMO Harris Bradley Center site.” “The Bucks’ requests for proposals were for a hotel with 175 to 200 rooms and a hotel with 250 or more rooms, which is more of a full-service hotel, Bucks president Peter Feigin said.” Future plans for the particular use of other property are being discussed, but no conclusions have been reached.
The chain-link fences that surround the parking lots flanking the arena, along with the Bradley Center’s resting place, bear signs with three slogans: ‘Built to work. Built to play. Built to stay.’
The lots’ current vacancy is partially by design. The team promised not to build until after next summer’s Democratic National Convention, leaving room for demonstrators, an estimated 50,000 attendees and countless TV trucks.
After they leave, the Bucks predict shovels will be in the ground within weeks, laying foundations for the first next building: a glass-paned office building of up to 20 stories. The team is working out details with potential anchor tenants. It’s also fielding offers for multiple hotels and planning for an unspecified number of high-density housing units in the coming years.
VI. Deer District Subsidies
Tax Incremental Districts (TIDs), also known as Tax Incremental Financing(TIFs), are development tools that are often utilized by governmental units in helping and subsidizing a developer who is involved in a development that has public benefit. The State of Wisconsin Department of Revenue describes a TID district as follows:
When a Tax Incremental District (TID) is created, the current value of all the taxable property within the defined boundaries is established. This value is the “base value” of the TID… The taxes collected on this portion of the property value are shared by the overlying taxing jurisdictions, and once the TID is created this portion of the tax collections is allocated as it always has been. In this example the county, school, technical college and municipality split revenues on the base value….
Over the life of the TID, the county, school, technical college and municipality (and special district where applicable) all collect taxes from the property in the TID base. Meanwhile, new construction and investment increase the value of the property. All of the taxes collected on the growth in value of the property (or the “value increment”) are turned over to the City as “tax increment” revenue. The City uses this revenue stream only to pay for the improvements that it made to the property in the TID that are in the approved project plan.
As previously noted, the City of Milwaukee had committed to a $47 Million share of the Bucks arena development package. The $47 Million will be repaid through the creation of two TIF districts.
The money that the City will spend on the public plaza and parking garage will be repaid through two TIF districts, TID 84 and TID 22. “TID 84, which covers about 45 acres including the Bradley Center and most of the Old World 3rd St. commercial district, would be created. It would provide $12 million for the plaza. TID 22, the Beerline, would be modified and would provide $27 million for the parking structure.” The Bucks would contribute $8 million toward construction of the parking structure. The City would repay the Bucks with interest from TID 84 once the City has recovered its $12 million plaza investment.  The TIF districts will collect “property taxes from new nearby commercial developments, including the entertainment center and a Bucks practice facility,” which are located within a half-mile radius of the parking structure. Under Act 60, “any expenditures or monetary obligations made or incurred by a first class city to fund a parking facility next to or within one-mile of public entertainment facilities, including new arena, would be considered a benefit to the TIF district and therefore be included as project costs.” The TIFs will also collect “property taxes from a [TIF] that includes several newer condos, apartments and other developments on N. Commerce St., north of downtown.”
The City planned “to provide an additional $8 Million in TIF funds to the Bucks owners for the ancillary development.”
All of the property in the arena district will be assessed property taxes except for the arena, the plaza and the parking structure owned by the city, [Mayor Tom] Barrett said.
The new TIF district for the arena would overlap the city’s existing TIF district for the Park East corridor, which means the boundaries of the Park East TIF would be changed.
The area for the arena TIF district includes Park East blocks between McKinley Avenue and Juneau Avenue, west of the Aloft Hotel to West Winnebago Street. It also includes a block and a half north of the BMO Harris Bradley Center and its parking structure, blocks north of West Highland Avenue between the Milwaukee River and North Fourth Street, and part of the block northwest of McKinley and North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
All of that area is currently in the Park East TIF district, and would be removed from the TIF and placed into the new arena TIF.
In addition to the land from the Park East TIF district, the arena TIF district would also include: the current Bradley Center site, a vacant lot southwest of North 6th Street and West State Street, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel block, blocks south of Highland Avenue between the Milwaukee River, North 4th Street and State Street, and the north of the Park East corridor between McKinley, 6th Street, West Vliet Street and Old World Third Street.
VII. Uses of The Entertainment District
The proposed uses for the entertainment district were originally described in detail by a developmental plan approved by Milwaukee Common Council. The City would field a wide range of potential uses, and each building would be approved by the Common Council on a building by building basis. Many were hoping that the Deer District would become “[a] spontaneous hangout” where friends could gather and watch “a Wisconsin sports team play a good game.”
The first building completed was the practice facility. The Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center is two stories high and includes approximately 55,000 square-feet of space for team use. The Sports Science Center, encompassing a total of 77,500 square-feet, is located on the corner of Sixth Street and Juneau Avenue… and across the street from the Fiserv Forum…. The Sports Science Center boasts world-class amenities throughout, including two full-sized basketball courts, an expansive strength training room with a cardio deck overlooking the space, three hydrotherapy pools, top-of-the-line player amenities including a new player lounge, spacious locker room area, an outpost of Gee’s Clippers barbershop, kitchen area overseen by the team’s personal chef and dietitian, a Gatorade fueling station, a media workroom and office space for the team’s coaches, general manager and basketball staff. The Sports Science Center also features an outdoor patio area with a fire pit, grill and seating, which overlooks the Fiserv Forum and Milwaukee skyline.
As part of the collaboration on the Sports Science Center, Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin physicians will be the official health care providers for the Bucks players and will work closely with the Bucks training staff to devise training and rehabilitation programs for Bucks players. The Sports Science Center will also serve as the hub for new athletic performance research endeavors conducted jointly by the Bucks and the Medical College of Wisconsin sports medicine doctors and researchers. The Sports Science Center is adjacent to the new 37,000 square-foot Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin McKinley Health Center, which will serve as a health care resource for Milwaukee residents on the near north side as well as downtown. “The new Bucks training center was designed by Milwaukee-based Eppstein Uhen Architects and Populous.” Local builder JP Cullen managed the construction of the facility.
Directly next to the Fiserv Forum and connecting to Block 4 the Bucks built a public Plaza. The Plaza takes up the space between N. 4th St. between W. Juneau Ave. on the north and W. Highland Ave. to the south. The mall features trees and shrubbery and inclined lawns throughout, with a 12,300-square-foot events area in the center. There will also be outdoor dining opportunities at the Plaza, a farmers markets and art shows, a 4,800-square-foot ice rink, and basketball courts for tournaments. The events area, adjacent to the Plaza, would feature live music. As a public right of way, public access and traffic related easement is mandatory. Still, the Bucks organization can still seek a permit to close the street for private, but limited, purposes.
The Plaza has now hosted many events, Milwaukee Oktoberfest, a German festival celebrating its ninth consecutive year in Milwaukee and was the first-ever event on the Plaza adjacent to Fiserv Forum, which took place from October 5-7, 2018.
In September of 2019, the Deer District donned its costume and opened the Fear District. The Fear District featured “haunted houses, scary movie screenings, special holiday-themed food, spooky spirits – of both the drinking and the paranormal kind – and much more” and operated from September 26 through November 3, 2019.
‘We are thrilled to bring the unique Halloween experience of Fear District to Milwaukee to deliver a one-of-a-kind Halloween season tradition,’ said Michael Belot, Senior Vice President of Bucks Ventures and Development, in a press release. ‘Fear District will entertain everybody, making Deer District a must-do destination for Halloween.’
Fear District will showcase three 3,600-square foot haunted house experiences – on vampire themed, one pirate themed and one farmhouse – featuring games and free photo stations, in addition to roving spooky performers and more.
The Chistkindlmarket replicated holiday markets found throughout Germany and is inspired by the one in Nuremberg, Germany that dates to the 1500s and possibly earlier. It had 18 booths filled with two dozen vendors. The Christkindlmarket returned to the Plaza at Fiserv Forum from November 15 to December 24, 2019. “[T]he inaugural Milwaukee Christkindlmarket attracted 450,000 visitors during its 40-day run in 2018. Vistors enjoyed the market’s shopping, delicious international and local delicacies, hot spiced wine (Glühwein) and family friendly activities.
The Plaza is an outside playground, a place for people to congregate, an outdoor event and entertainment center, but even more importantly, it is an outdoor living room for viewing sports events. “Couldn’t get tickets to the big game? Worried about game day traffic and finding parking? Fear not, because Fiserv Forum’s plaza is the new place to cheer on the Packers, Brewers, Badgers and more.” The gigantic television screens offer an alternative to buying a ticket and an interesting venue to view a professional or collegiate sporting event.
During the construction of the arena project, the Bucks finished the Parking Structure which was intended to replace the N. 4th Street parking garage. Current uses for the Parking Structure include a rooftop gathering space for tailgating. “Wisconsin sports fans love tailgating for football and baseball games, so why not basketball, too? That’s apparently what the Milwaukee Bucks are thinking with their new Parking Structure […] [that] features a rooftop gathering space for tailgating before a game or a concert at the Downtown arena.” “The rooftop level [has] enough space for 150 cars and offer fans panoramic views of the city, Downtown skyline and surrounding arena entertainment district. Bucks President Peter Feigin suggested there might even be grills installed for people to use up there.”
The Parking Structure contains approximately 1243 parking spaces and costs approximately $47 million. As previously mentioned, the cost is being split between $27 million in City of Milwaukee bonding via a tax incremental financing district and another $8 million in developer TIF financing through the Bucks. The real estate arm of the Bucks paid for the remaining cost of the Parking Structure. It should be noted that any and all revenues produced from the Parking Structure minus the costs of maintenance and operations are to be split evenly between Milwaukee and the Bucks. The Parking Structure is managed by Reef Parking.
Housing will also become part of the Parking Structure. A site attached to the Parking Structure, just east of North 6th Street between West Juneau and West McKinney Avenues, was sold for $830,000 to Park 7 Lofts, LLC, a company affiliated with Royal Capital Group, LLC. The parcel so sold is under a half acre and was purchased by Deer District, LLC, a group that is affiliated with the Bucks.
Royal Capital Group, LLC was founded by Kevin Newell in 2010. The company focuses on urban development. Newell graduated from Custer High School in Milwaukee’s Hampton Heights neighborhood before matriculating at UW-Whitewater, where he received an MBA degree.
Royal Capital Group, LLC has dramatically grown to over $100 million in real estate assets composed mainly of multi-family housing ventures. Included in their inventory is a $32 million development featuring 181 residential units and a restaurant in Milwaukee’s Brewers Hill neighborhood. Royal Capital Group, LLC is also a partner in a mixed-use development to replace the Mill Road Library with a new 17,000 square foot library and 55 multi-family apartment development.
Royal Capital has constructed 112 apartment units which are located along the eastern side of North 6th Street between West Juneau and West McKinney Avenues. Tenants in the new apartments will have directed access to all events at the Fiserv Forum through various interconnections. The development includes one and two bedroom apartments ranging in rent from $1195-$3500 a month. Additional planned amenities included a rooftop terrace and clubroom, state of the art fitness center, and indoor/outdoor lounges, to name a few.
Milwaukee Bucks President, Peter Feigin said,
This project has always been about more than basketball. Our ownership is committed to contributing to the revitalization of the city and spurring additional private investment in the future of Milwaukee. Kevin embodies that entrepreneurial spirit and shares our commitment to building a stronger and more vibrant downtown community.
The Bucks have focused on Block 4. Currently there are three completed anchor tenants, Punch Bowl Social, Good City Brewing, and Mecca Sports Bar & Grill. Another tenant the Beer Garden recently opened along with Drink Wisconsinbly. There is also a Bucks Pro Shop in the area.
Punch Bowl Social is described as an “eatertainment venue.” “Punch Bowl Social fills a 24,500-square-foot space [that] offer[s] scratch-made food, craft beverages and a variety of entertainment options.” It is located directly east of Fiserv Forum and adjacent to Good City Brewing….” “The Milwaukee location features a custom-built, 360-degree bar, plus outdoor patio spaces, lounges and other gathering spots.” “Activities at Punch Bowl Social include pingpong, darts, board games, classic video games, bowling and karaoke, among others.”
The second anchor tenant is the Good City Brewing Company which was established in Milwaukee in 2016. This new tap room is a large upgrade from the company’s existing facility. “The main floor features 32 taps, an open kitchen, indoor seating for 200 and garage doors that open to the Entertainment Block.” “Brewery Chef Guy Davies will feature a menu that includes popular dishes from the East Side taproom as well as new items centered around a pizza oven concept.” “The second level features Good City Commons, a 350-seat event space and outdoor patio that overlooks the Entertainment Plaza.” “In addition to corporate, nonprofit, wedding and other private events, the space will also host public events such as post game beer gardens and a Friday Fish Fry.”
The MECCA Sports Bar and Grill officially opened to the public on May 3, 2019 and is what Peter Feigin summarized as the owner’s attempt to create an “arena experience bar.” The bar is two-floors, has a capacity of 750, and is equipped with 64 televisions.  Inside the main spectacle is the “38-foot high-definition TV” while outside the most impressive feature is the patio with “an outstanding view of the Fiserv Forum.” The bar’s impressive aesthetics are matched with its menu which is crafted by Chef Matt Kerley.  The menu features a variety of selections from “traditional chicken strips, curds, to their unique ‘Cream City chimney stack nachos’ and many more.” “The MECCA Sports Bar and Grill [opened] in an 11,500-square-foot space in the same building as Good City Brewing’s new downtown location.” “The ‘MECCA’ name references the arena in which the Bucks played for 20 years, including their historic heyday in the 1970s, which boasted an iconic floor design that the team used to inspire special edition jerseys this season. The MECCA arena is now the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.” “Justin Green, the vice president of hospitality for the Bucks, said the Bucks’ food and beverage program will extend beyond Fiserv Forum to the new space and provide an ‘elevated sports bar culinary experience.’”
Drink Wisconsinbly opened a pub and merchandise shop encompassing 3,500 square feet within the Entertainment Block that “presents a rotating list of Wisconsin micro-beers within Fiserv Forum.”
‘Drink Wisconsinbly is incredibly excited and proud to be bringing our flagship DW Pub to the Entertainment Block,’ says John Casanova, president of Wisconsinbly Holdings and Drink Wisconsinbly Beverage Company LLC. ‘We will celebrate all things Wisconsin and provide a unique experience for locals and tourists alike.’
VIII. Interviews of Key Figures in the Deer District Development
To get a better feel for the Deer District and its development, the contributors to this article had the opportunity to interview a key figure in the Bucks organization, their attorney, and a developer who was attracted to the Deer District because of the Fiserv Forum. Casey Campos interviewed Peter Feigin, President of the Bucks, John-Richard Peterson interviewed Attorney Bruce Block, attorney for the Deer District development, and Casey Campos interviewed Scott Lurie, a well-known Milwaukee real estate developer who has bought and developed property in the Deer District. What follows are those interviews:
A. Peter Feigin
- What has the development done or meant for Milwaukee?
So I think number one, the development has created a new neighborhood. You know, the beginnings of a new neighborhood. Where there was nothing, there is now some substance. I think it’s a meeting place that didn’t really exist. So if you look around the metro City of Milwaukee there really is a centralized meeting place where hundreds, much less thousands, of people can congregate, meet, have events and things. That’s really the direction, and with Fiserv really serving as the center piece of it. For us, it’s been a transformational project and in really what the urban planning of the future is like for Milwaukee.
- What can we expect as far as future development, from hotels and developments in general?
I think it is all about density and inhabitance. So we are going to develop a couple hotels, probably aggregate around 500 rooms which is significant in the city. We are going to develop more residential and we are going to develop commercial, basically an office building, which we have forecasted to be about 250-350,000 square feet. So with the whole thought of how do we populate this neighborhood, as part of that planning, it’s all the little things as well as how do we have our supermarket, and your gym and your other things. So it’s really neighborhood building in a big way, but the next stage is really getting people living and working here. We have people playing here; so it’s three prongs: live, work, and play. Play we have going, now it’s living and working.
- Do you have any businesses in particular you would like to see, any brands or companies you would like to see in new development?
Yes, if we had a magic wand we would have companies that don’t reside in the State of Wisconsin currently. So how does this project really attract new prospects to the community? How do we utilize our prospective job force in the state to build new jobs, build new infrastructures? So what would be perfect is to attract new businesses, and then other than that it’s really to have vibrant, forward thinking community members that want to be part of the district.
- In regards to out of state companies, have you been in touch with any?
Yes, so we have spent the last 18 months prospecting. We have spent a lot of timing going out and telling our story. In the last six months, really because of the success of the Bucks and kind of getting to national playoffs, we have had a lot of push towards us with interest to come. I think we have a lot of what you would think, there is some innovation, technology, a lot of financial institutions that are interested in going for us, and we aren’t really overly picky with what it is. What we would like to do is kind of prelease the building before we build it. So if it is 250-350,000 square feet, how do we get commitments for half or more of it and then start to build?
- Are there any other uses you see for the Plaza? I know that the watch party for the Women’s World Cup was there, do you foresee any festivals or anything else in that area?
Yes, we see Halloween, District Fright Feast, fun events whether they’re festivals. We are going to have a Lobster Fest [. . .]. We are going to open it up and probably have curling competitions and build ice in the winter. The key to the Plaza is, whether or not there is an event in the arena, how do we create programming and content that becomes a destination? Think of a hundred events, like a year that you really activate that Plaza in a fun way and make it a destination.
- Do you have any particular types of events, in regards to hosting in the plaza that you would like to see?
I think concerts are kind of where we see the gap. We would love to get that outside amphitheater type of feeling for 3-6,000 people and kind of hanging out all over the place and make that one of the corner stones of the content as we go forward. So how do we take five months of the year and create piece and content and that’s all the way to having folk singers do 3-500 person events.
- So in regards to concerts, would you have screens on the outside or how would you transform the plaza for this?
I think it’s all different based on who the artist is. So some would be larger where you put up screens and a full production, some would be smaller, but how do you make it. If you asked me “what’s the dream,” in two to three years this is really the destination for entertainment outside, inside, 12 months a year type of thing.
- Are there any retail developments you foresee coming into the area?
Yeah, we think retail is going through a massive transformation in the whole world. Whether you are going to shopping malls or you see what’s happening with brick and mortar. This District kind of avails itself for kind of a little more pop-up and a little more interesting. So like, how is, for example the new wave of car dealerships think of your Tesla dealerships where it’s here is your pop-up car. We think shared work space is going to become kind of interesting new retail proposition. We also think, we have the ability to go out on the edge and really think about other retail entertainment. So think about being able to go to your indoor driving range and other things like that. Of course E-sports is a big deal for us. So how do we think about, is this the right place for a lounge, is this the right place for kind of gaming? Those are directionally where we are thinking.
- What do you see happening as a result of Deer District specifically happening to surrounding areas?
We see a total ripple effect to every piece of fabric we are attached to. So this is like, how do we welcome in the North, the South; how are we a great adjacency to the extension of the convention center in a big way. So, a real kind of accelerant for the growth of Milwaukee. We see this as part one of a major investment in the West side of the Milwaukee River which really hasn’t seen this type of thing. So people can reimagine what that is like.
- Do you have a predicted finish date for future developments?
We don’t. So one of the interesting dates is that we hope to contractually get everything in place in the next couple of months, so post the Democratic National Convention, we can start building. We have agreed with the DNC not to, and to give them the lots. That was part of what enticed them to use Milwaukee in a big way – to have more space around the arena. So the second, a year from today, you’re building and then based on what project it is, those buildings take 18-24 months to erect.
- Is there anything else you would like to share about Deer District, Block Four? Whether it is the journey of getting it to where it is now?
For us we are in a great spot. We are ahead of where we thought we would be, but it’s really reimagining. We have owners that are beyond visionary, they have the ability to invest and pivot and really rethink of what could happen. For us the next 18 months will be really exciting because we will be finishing empty lots. We are looking at how to market the city in a way that has never been marketed before. How to drive more traffic and really use this engine of Fiserv Forum and the Bucks to build. What is economic development beyond our things – the more attractive the city becomes for people who live here, for people who are tourists here, and people who are perspectives. It’s great for everybody.
B. Bruce Block
Attorney Block has established himself as one of the most accomplished real estate attorneys in the nation. His firm biography states:
Bruce T. Block has been practicing law since 1979 and is a shareholder in Reinhart’s Real Estate Practice Bruce’s clients include private developers and investors, institutional developers and investors, lenders, municipalities and community development authorities. He has significant experience in a broad range of real estate matters including land use planning, zoning, eminent domain, historic tax credits, multiple and mixed use ownership structures, tax incremental financing and leasing, construction and design contracts. Bruce’s extensive contacts in both public and private sectors are key factors in his ability to navigate complex transactions to successful and creative conclusions.
A frequent speaker on real estate matters, land use and zoning and tax incremental financing, Bruce is widely recognized in the business community as a knowledgeable and practical lawyer with the ability and relationships to get things done.
He represented the Bucks as legal counsel through each stage of the Deer District development process. His information about the development is invaluable and shows the vision and idea carrying the development from the drawing board, into the future. He was gracious with his time and allowed me to record and put down his thoughts and analysis on the Block 4 development. The question and answer in its entirety is as follows:
- What is the breadth of the entertainment district, its size and boundaries?
It is the block that was formerly the parking structure… it was the entire block, the scope [to focus on] should include the connector. [The connector] is the piece that runs from Old World 3rd Street to Block 4. That was comprised of two things, a single parcel the Bucks bought and abutting that, was a public alley. The connector is comprised of both a public and private component.
- How many land parcels did the Bucks acquire to construct the entertainment district?
It was all of Block 4 which was a single parcel (Block 4) acquired from the City… and then the connector which comprised of the public parcel plus the private alley.
- Who was the master developer?
This would be Head of the Heard, which is an umbrella development entity that runs side by side with Deer District, LLC and Milwaukee Bucks, LLC. Head of the Heard is the private real estate arm [. . .]. Deer District is the arena holder or leasee.
- What assistance did the City grant in constructing the entertainment district, I know a parking garage was conveyed over and two TID districts?
The City piece was cash for the Block 7 parking structure, the parking structure off of McKinley and then putting money into the Plaza. The Plaza is 4th Street which is now a pedestrian mall and putting money into the public portion of Block 4.
- What are the permitted uses of the entertainment district?
The permitted uses are pretty broad. Since this is detailed plan zoning, it really focuses on what the improvements look like, not so much the uses within [doesn’t recall what they originally look like] [. . .] probably C9G the broadest scope of uses the City has for downtown.
- Is there a current master plan that conveys these uses?
No [. . .]. Block 4 has all the broad retail uses. The only issues there relate to the detailed plan uses [. . .]. Since it’s a detailed plan, all the individual buildings have to be approved by the City Council [. . .]. In terms of what goes on inside, there isn’t clear oversite.
- Who is currently heading the real estate development and effort over the entertainment block?
Block 4 is pretty much done, I am not sure what is going on internally [. . .] in terms of what they will do for the future development, they are contemplating that and it’s in flux.
- Where there any bills or ordinances before the Common Council that needed a vote with respect to the district?
All the zoning had to be done, and for the connector the alley was converted into a pedestrian mall as well, so that had to be approved by the [Common] Council.
- How does Act 60 cover the real estate element?
Act 60 was really for the arena, Block 4 really was unaffected by Act 60.
- What will this do to the real estate values in the area?
I would think that it [should] enhance it, the benefit with Block 4 is you are trying to create a 24/7 destination with activity throughout the year, not just whenever something is going on at the Fiserv Forum. That’s what is unique, [the Bucks are] trying to create the year-round activity driver.
- This has essentially cemented the Bucks to this area in the City, much of the Downtown commerce areas and development are now located a few miles down the road, where any other areas considered and why did this area win out?
I think they looked at the Journal Sentinel building, and could [not come to terms on an agreement]. [This won out] because they had the land and the Bradley Center was the most logical place.
- What pre-existing arena developments or districts was this modeled after?
Columbus, Saint Louis, L.A., they took a look at any place with major activities outside of the [sporting] facility. Where retail and commercial activity was able to thrive and hit a symbiotic relationship, with each driving the other and each benefiting the other.
- Talk me through the initial negations of this deal, how did the Entertainment Block come together?
The Block cannot be segregated from everything else that was going on [. . .] basically this was an entire package. This was a vision pitched to the State, City, and the County, of which you needed all three [to buy in] at the same time. And so, once they kind of had decided on where they wanted to go, they settled on what they wanted around it [. . .].
The vision was to create a district around the arena. Park East was important; Block 4 was important; of course the arena site itself was important. All of that came together at the same time, you had three different negotiations at the same time with the State, County, and City in terms of what their contributions could be and how it was going to fit in.
These guys weren’t really riding a bicycle, while they were building it. To me, the most fascinating part was these guys picked a number for that arena way early in the process and it turned out to be the number, and that was just phenomenal. I think when the vision was presented effectively, it wasn’t a hard sell. It was just then how the pieces fit together [. . .]. The City had to figure out how they were going to make their contribution to the deal. I thought they were brilliant quite frankly in how they put it together.
They got $47 million in cash coming into this deal, but they never hit the levy. They had an existing TID on Commerce Street, The Beerline, that they were able to pull into it. And they created a new one, which I think is way ahead of schedule in terms of the increment that is being generated. They contributed the old parking structure and land for Block 4, in which they will get half the proceeds from the new adjacent parking structure. It was an integrated whole, and the vision was contagious [. . .]. It tied into all three units of government pretty easily.
- A significant portion of the overall arena project was funded by TID districts and private financing. You are a frequent speaker on a multitude of real estate areas including TID districts, why was this the best potential fit for urban development?
It’s case by case, I mean they have to work and they have to be effective. Here they had excess cash sitting over in Beerline B, it was a very lucrative TID. They were able to take this excess cash, plus three or four more years of additional surplus cash to cover a big chunk of the contribution. And the new TID they created was not only very manageable and foreseeable in terms of what could be generated, but they also had the Bucks pay in the subordinate $8 million dollars. It was a $20 million-dollar TID, with the final $8 million dollars of risk put in by the Bucks. So it was pretty cleverly put together. You have to do the underwriting in each instance to determine what will work, but generally TIDs if effectively underwritten, and carefully structured can be great tools. In fact about the only tool that municipalities have left.
- Were there any land conveyance issues with the entertainment block and district? Were there any unique challenges since this was developed in a mostly urban area?
There was underground work done everywhere, the biggest one was the storm sewer that ran into the Park East area [. . .] this was a complicated block because it got divided into four parcels. The three building parcels and three sites, there are two buildings up, and a potential site. The land around those building sites is an out lot. That out lot had to be conveyed to the Wisconsin Center District and then leased back to Deer District to get funds from the arena budget into that parcel. Because you can only spend money out of the arena pot on WCD owned property. So we had to carve that up, so private money went into the buildings and the arena money went into the Plaza [. . .].
Then we had the pedestrian mall, we had to go through the [Common] Council for the alley, not only the east-west alley that runs from Third Street to Fourth Street, but also there is a north-south alley that cuts through the middle of that, that had to be part of the pedestrian mall as well. And then we had to create a master lease that covered the pedestrian mall, the private parcel, and the restrooms in one the building that for code purposes had to be available to the public as well. This was really a heavily documented piece of real estate for the square foot, it is probably 50 pages per square foot of space in terms of documentation. It was a fairly complicated transaction.
- What was the most challenging part of the deal for the Bucks?
There were a lot of code issues, I mean the concept was never at risk [. . ] it was a complicated puzzle to put all these pieces together. It seems like a simple concept, you simply have the pedestrian mall running through that block that gets you to another block. And then you have these entertainment facilitates going on in this public policy. To accomplish that just required an awful lot of thinking through ownership structures, drafting easements [. . .]. [W]e had subterranean issues, stormwater issues and so forth. In order to get the code approval from the city we had to have all sorts of storm cross easements, and storm water access easements [. . .]. [W]e had to have a very difficult conversation with the city regarding the canopy in the connector. Under the building code, under the international building code, arguably it was a structure which required certain fire prevention facilities to be installed, which were very expensive and very difficult. So we had to figure a way out through all that stuff [. . .]. In addition to that we had a next-door neighbor, the Uglies building where we wanted to put a mural on the wall [. . .] and clean up that wall [. . .]. [T]hey wanted outdoor space and the rights to use part of the alley [. . .] at one point we were contemplating vacating the alley [. . .] there were a lot of things going on at the same time, all while trying to create a clean look [for the project].
- I saw that you worked for the WCD project, and that was a huge vehicle to get this through, how proud of you were the use of that vehicle in this project?
[Laughs] It was interesting, that was a two year process to create the Wisconsin Center District legislation to create this stuff [. . .]. [I]t was interesting to see this come full circle [. . .]. [W]hen Governor Walker plugged two hundred million dollars into the state budget to cover this, the WCD was not even part of this puzzle. It was only as that two hundred million got scaled back [. . .] we had to figure out how to fill that gap. It was only then that the WCD turned into a funding vehicle for this whole thing. So yeah, actually it was pretty interesting from a personal level to see what we did in the mid-1990s suddenly become the basis upon which this whole deal got put together.
- Deer District LLC sold a property in March for $830,000, it was reported that this will be an urban apartment development. What kind of outside investors were the Bucks interested in selling the land to and how involved will they be with neighboring developments going forward?
The requirements for the original deal [were] that we had to commit to building something that would cover the west wall of the parking structure [. . .] [L]ogically it was apartments, so the Bucks did an RFP [Request for Proposal] to select a local developer to develop that. There were a few Aldermen who did not want to see the parking structure with a blank wall [. . .]. We were able to agree to delay this request. We were able to get [the Common] Council to agree that this could come after the fact.
- Was the Zoning, Neighborhood, and Development Committee usually receptive to these changes?
We haven’t had too many issues with them [. . .]. Generally, we don’t go to the Committee unless we have had plenty of time to talk to people ahead of time. It has been a good relationship primarily because of good communication, and the other thing is the Bucks have always done what they said they were going to do, or done better then what they said they were going to do. They have always delivered which creates a sense of trust between the parties.
- In ten years, this entertainment block was a success if [. . .]?
If it’s a 24/7 destination, that’s the goal, and the tenants they have so far seem to be the type that drive that. And also, it depends on what happens in the McKinley and the Park East developments [. . .] Those sites are going to have to be filled in reasonably high density to drive the foot traffic for what’s going in there. So we will see.
C. Scott Lurie
There are many people who have been impacted by the creation of Deer District and Block 4, and one such developer and entrepreneur is Scott Lurie (“Lurie”). Scott Lurie was born and raised in Milwaukee, and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Finance from George Washington University in Washington, DC in 2004. He is a real estate investor and currently specializes in the healthcare and hospitality industries. Scott also engages in hard money lending, private equity, business acquisitions, and capital placement. He has done business as F Street Group which maintains an ownership stake in a number of iconic Milwaukee based businesses, and Jomela Properties which offers a variety of quality affordable rental housing among other companies. His building 42 in the Deer District includes Milwaukee Brewing Company, Glass and Griddle, Venue 42 at Milwaukee Brewing and the Rooftop at Milwaukee Brewing. Lurie, as a real estate developer who has ties to businesses that are geographically close to Block 4.
- What is your background? Can you explain about what you do specifically?
I am a local real estate investor in Milwaukee. I invest in multi-family, industrial and mixed use buildings throughout southeastern Wisconsin and the Fox Valley. We also do have a business that is focused on hospitality as well as a mortgage company that is focused on providing mortgages to real estate investors. So we do provide mortgages to real estate investors.
- In regards to Deer District how have you played a role, such as what properties have you been involved in?
The only property that I have been involved in is building 42 which is part of the historic Pabst Development that sits on the corner of 8th and Juneau, between Juneau and Highland. That building sat vacant and it was the last building to be redeveloped in the Pabst complex. It has two floors consisting of 87,500 square feet. When we acquired the property, we sold the lower unit to Extra Space Storage, and the building on 9th street we have renovated into 127,000 square feet of mixed use which includes office, hospitality and restaurant, and Milwaukee Brewing Company.
- What brought you to these projects? Was it the potential?
Good question. The project was actually brought to me by the opportunity to move Milwaukee Brewing Company into their new home. So that was prior to the Fiserv Forum or Deer District being announced. That’s how I initially got involved and that was in August of 2016, I believe. Shortly thereafter the Deer District and Fiserv Forum were announced and that was an additional catalyst to want to be in the area as a developer.
- What were you past goals when you acquired the Milwaukee Brewing Company, and what are your current and future goals for this project and future ones?
So the project has not changed in terms of its identity related to the Fiserv. My goal with the Deer District was the attraction, specifically for the brewery and the hospitality side to [guarantee] more customers as a result of game day events or concerts that are being held in the arena, where patrons are going to travel to see what is around the arena.
- What impacts have you seen since the Fiserv and Deer District have been developed?
The restaurant and the brewery have seen significant, with meaningful uptakes during an event day – whether that’s the Bucks’ event or a concert. When people are in the area due to an event at the Fiserv or the Deer District, we do see people visiting our facilities. Contrary to that, when the Deer District was created, for example if you use the Bucks playoff series when they were traveling or not a home game and people were flooding the facilities over by the Deer District, we saw a negative impact to our business as people were very self-contained inside of the Deer District to support the Bucks. We were materially impacted negatively as a result of the Bucks having the ability to maintain and keep the people at Deer District or in the Fiserv Forum arena rather than them coming to us in other areas. That was probably the biggest thing that is interesting to me – the negative impact of away games. It was only during the playoffs. So if you took a big playoff game where they were getting 10,000 people down in the Deer District then we were getting less people than we would normally get on a particular night.
- In regards to that and future events and the Bucks make it to the Playoffs again, do you plan on contracting with Fiserv to have a special event that would bring people to your location?
The challenge is, in my assessment of the situation, you are never going to materially get any of those people to come to us because we don’t have the sex appeal the Fiserv Forum has for the Bucks. So if someone says, ‘hey, we are going to go support the Bucks and Giannis is doing a shoe launch at the Fiserv Forum,’ everyone wants to be there. They don’t want to be three blocks from there. You don’t want to do battle where you cannot win. We are taking the position where we understand and we are just happy to support the Bucks. So we just move on, because once that Bucks’ promotion is added we just are not going to get the people.
- With future development in that area, do you see yourself involved in future developments around the stadium?
The owners of the Bucks have very deep real estate connection. So the challenge with them developing any other projects is that they will likely do it themselves. We have spoken with their very talented team and we have expressed an interest to potentially work with them, but I do not know what that would ever look like because I can’t see a scenario to which we would bring value to them and they would bring value to us. They’re the creators of the value and they have invested $500 million or so in this area. Their return is not only going to come from the Fiserv Forum but from the real estate around it. I just don’t see that happening, but you never know they might bring on another partner. I just don’t have the answer to that. They have enough stamina and intelligence to do a lot of really cool things. Whatever they do in terms of development in that area, we will continue to support and it will serve as a catalyst for our facilities and our projects. So whatever the scenario is I am certainly excited for them and I am happy to be a part of whatever they are doing.
- Is there anything else you would like to say about Deer District or your involvement or any final thoughts?
Since I have been a child growing up in Milwaukee, when the freeway was cut down and a development was scheduled, but instead sat vacant for 39 years, it is certainly a pleasant sight to see development. It is good for the city, good for the community, and good for everyone. So I feel that everything that is happening is a tremendous positive for our community, and our ability to take Milwaukee to the next level, which has been illustrated by the Democratic National Convention and the Bucks’ success. We are in a position of strength right now as a community and it is fun to be a part of it, even if we are just a small building up on the hill. It is really exciting to be a part of it.
In February of 2020, Lurie was quoted in the Milwaukee Business Journal as saying, “[w]e need jobs from outside. We need corporations to create headquarters here in Milwaukee that don’t exist today.”
IX. Attracting New Business After Completion of the Original Proposed Uses
As of August of 2019 most of the original proposed developments have been completed and the hub created by the area has attracted new business proposals. The original projects like Punch Bowl Social, Good City Brewing, MECCA, and Drink Wisconsinbly have all experienced customers after their first few months of Fiserv activities and events. The new attractiveness of this area has led to a rejuvenation of the area.
In late August of 2019, Pete Mueller (“Mueller”), the owner of a personal training gym, decided to uproot his business and announce his move to Deer District. Mr. Mueller’s personal training business is currently located on Water Street, but “come October 1 he will move into the first-floor space at 555 W. McKinley Ave.” The space will be “below the Five Fifty Ultra Lofts apartments and will increase his gym space to 5,500 square feet.” Mueller explains that this area is “the hottest development in metro Milwaukee right now and I love the buzz.” Additionally, Mueller “said moving to a higher-profile location on a busy intersection makes sense for his gym.” Lastly, he also “likes the connection it makes between downtown and the near north side.” All of these features influenced him to move from 1535 N. Water St., where “he has been since 2011,” to the new Deer District.
It has been reported that the 9,000 square foot building that currently houses Ugly’s on N. Old World Third Street will be renovated into two separate bar-restaurant concepts. The first floor will become Uncle Buck’s that will be a “rustic Northwoods meet hip East Coast theme, complete with prize buck trophies from hunters throughout Wisconsin.” The second and third floors will be transformed into “a lounge, dance club and patio that will feature a view of the adjacent Bucks-owned Beer Garden and its 30-foot screen” called Red Star.
In November of 2019 the Milwaukee BizTimes reported that J.Jeffers & Co. had acquired the downtown Milwaukee Journal Sentinel buildings for a rehabilitation project.
“All options are on the table,” Jeffers said in a news release, adding the buildings’ proximity to the Fiserv Forum and Bucks’ Deer District development area only increases the potential for a successful adaptive reuse.
The three buildings acquired are on the block bordered by North Vel R. Phillips Avenue on the west, West State Street to the north, Old World Third Street on the east and West Kilbourn Avenue to the south.
In December of 2019 it was announced that American Family Insurance “will renovate the 110-year-old former Mandel Graphic Solutions plant on North Martin Luther King Jr. Drive for its downtown Milwaukee offices.”
[The building] will be home to a new multipurpose American Family office, with space for 400 employees in a variety of roles, including claims, high-tech and community partnerships.
The five-story Mandel building was constructed in 1909 for the Phoenix Hosiery company, and was among the four American Family finalist sites named in September by the Journal Sentinel.
American Family chose the Mandel building “as the best location to attract talent and collaborate with the community,” said Kari Grasee, vice president of business and workplace services, which oversees company facilities.
The building is in a developing business district, with easy access to public transportation, and the structure is solid with beautiful historic architectural character, Grasee said.
In January of 2020 it was announced that Insomnia Cookies was opening a third Milwaukee location on the east side of the building located at 1133 N. Old World Third Street. The bakery that delivers cookies, ice cream and cakes until 3 am will “share the structure with The Beer Garden’s 558-square-foot tap room.”
X. The Future
With the Firserv Forum and the entertainment Block 4 complete, there is still a long road to the completion of construction for the Entertainment District. It has been reported that the Bucks
are working to secure developers and tenants for four main sites: a 2.4 acre plot on the Northwest quadrant of Juneau and Vel R. Phillips Aves., a 1.88 acre plot on the Northeast quadrant of that same intersection, and a 2.89 acre and 2.68 acre plot at the former Bradley Center site just to the south of the Fiserv Forum. The sites at Juneau and Vel R. Philips Ave are in the Park East Corridor.
“All available parcels have garner[ed] ‘overwhelming’ interest from hotel, office, retail and residential tenants from across the country,” said Michael Belot, senior vice president of Bucks Ventures and Development.
The Bucks have followed the path of many other sports franchises and communities in creating a sports community, i.e. – a sports.comm, as part of their sports facility development. The newly developed Deer District “gets away from the idea of a stadium built on an island surrounded by a sea of parking lots, where people go just to a game or another event and that’s it,” says Bucks CFO Patrick McDonough. Still to come is a second phase of construction on the Bucks-owned land that may include residences, hotels, and commercial offices. “There are a lot of great opportunities to round out the ‘live-work-play’ mantra of a mixed-use development,” McDonough says.
There are lessons that the Bucks experience can teach all sports facility developers, including:
- Sports facility development is nothing more than another form of real estate development.
- Many sports facilities are built in core urban areas that are blighted and are in need of renewal projects.
- Sports facilities attract people, and people enjoy living near sports facilities which results in the generation of residential development along with the creation of other service and commercial needs and opportunities.
- Sports facilities should be the anchor tenant for development districts, a sports.comm, where people live, work, socialize, eat, become educated, shop and congregate.
- Mixed use developments surrounding stadiums will normally include residential development, hotels, auxiliary and entertainment development, services establishments, retail outlets, office space, and potentially some corporate headquarters.
- Sports facility should be part of a planned community.
- The planned or happenstance created by sports districts and all benefits associated with them should help ameliorate the controversy surrounding tax payer support for sports facilities.
- It may be that which goes on outside the stadium is more important than what goes on inside.
The Bucks organization needs to be congratulated for its vision and re-energizing downtown Milwaukee. The Deer District is an exciting place to visit and has become one of Milwaukee’s most visited attractions. But more importantly, it has brought new commerce to the area. The development that will succeed that which was already there will give total credence to the concept of a sports.comm. That is – a sports facility must be much more than a place to play and view sports, it must be a place for the regeneration, renaissance of an area of a city. “‘The notion that sports could be an anchor was an idea that some scoffed at,’ Mark Rosentraub, a sports economist at the University of Michigan, told The Columbus Dispatch in 2015. ‘Now, it’s the bible.’”
Thank you to J.R. Peterson for his help with respect to the research and drafting of this article, along with interviewing Attorney Bruce Block.
Thank you to Casey Campos for her assistance in editing and drafting this article, along with interviewing Peter Feigin and Scott Luire.
Thank you to my legal assistant, Danelle Welzig, for her revisions upon revisions of this piece.
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 Rogan, supra Note 6.
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 Daykin, supra note 38.
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 New Bucks Arena Parking Garage, Urban Milwaukee, http://urbanmilwaukee.com/building/new-bucks-arena-parking-garage/ (last visited Oct. 4, 2015); Crocker Stephenson, Another City Committee Backs Bucks Arena Financing, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Sept. 16, 2015), http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/another-city-committee-backs-bucks-arena-financing-b99577658z1-327902021.html.
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 Press Release, Bucks name Milwaukee-based Royal Capital Group as private developer for arena district residential units, Feb. 23, 2017, https://www.nba.com/bucks/release/bucks-name-milwaukee-based-royal-capital-group-private-developer-arena-district-residential
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 Press Release, supra Note 181.
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 Maredithe Meyer, Two new bar-restaurants planned for Ugly’s building near Deer District, BizTimes, Jul. 9, 2019, https://biztimes.com/two-new-bar-restaurants-planned-for-uglys-building-in-deer-district/
 Alex Zank, Jeffers acquires downtown Journal Sentinel buildings, BizTimes, Nov. 1, 2019, https://biztimes.com/jeffers-acquires-downtown-journal-sentinel-buildings/
 Sari Lesk, American Family selects building near arena district for Milwaukee office, Milwaukee Business Journal, Dec. 5, 2019, https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2019/12/05/american-family-selects-building-neararena.html
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 Rogan, supra Note 6.